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Assault means of the Regia Marina

By Sakhal

Assault means of the Regia Marina

Of surface

Tourism Speedboat (1st and 2nd series)

Characteristics: lenght: 5.20 meters; total weight: 1100 kilograms; warhead: 330 kilograms; maximum speed: 33 knots; operational range: 150 kilometers; year: 1936. Observations: explosive hulls denominated "Motoscafo da Turismo" (Tourism Speedboat) due to secrecy reasons.

Modified Tourism Speedboat

Characteristics: lenght: 6.11 meters; total weight: 1200 kilograms; warhead: 330 kilograms; maximum speed: 31 knots; operational range: 160 kilometers; year: 1942. Observations: MT with improved and strengthened hull and fitted with a second fuze.

Reduced Tourism Speedboat

Characteristics: lenght: 6.11 meters; total weight: 1000 kilograms; warhead: 333 kilograms; maximum speed: 29 knots; operational range: 150 kilometers; year: 1942. Observations: version of the MTM of small dimensions, transportable also by submarine.

Torpedo Tourism Speedboat

Characteristics: lenght: 7.15 meters; total weight: 1750 kilograms; warhead: two torpedoes of 300 kilograms; maximum speed: 28 knots; operational range: 170 kilometers; year: 1939. Observations: version of the MTM to support with torpedoes the action of the "barchini" and to retrieve successively their pilots.

Modified Torpedo Tourism Speedboat

Characteristics: lenght: 8.40 meters; total weight: 3000 kilograms; warhead: one 400-kilogram torpedo and two bombs to launch against ships; maximum speed: 32 knots; operational range: 310 kilometers; year: 1941. Observations: reinforced version of the MTT.


Characteristics: lenght: 8.80 meters; total weight: 3710 kilograms; warhead: one 500-kilogram torpedo and two bombs to launch against ships; maximum speed: 29 knots; operational range: 460 kilometers; year: 1943. Observations: reinforced version of the MTTM.

Slow Tourism Speedboat

Characteristics: lenght: 9.50 meters; total weight: 7300 kilograms; warhead: two slow-march torpedoes; maximum speed: 4-5 knots; operational range: 75-110 kilometers; year: 1941. Observations: able to transport two slow-march torpedoes with silent electric motors (to which was later added a combustion engine) to the vicinity of the operations area, where she would sink herself while the slow-march torpedoes started their mission.


A class 1st series

Characteristics: displacement: 13.5/16.4 tonnes; length: 10 meters; beam: 1.96 meters; draught: 1.60 meters; propulsion: Diesel-electric; maximum speed: 6.5/5 knots; operational range: 700/57 kilometers; armament: two 450-millimeter torpedoes or eight 100-kilogram explosive charges plus 20 "leeches"; crew: 3. Observations: The submarines of the A class were always used as true assault means (there was in construction a perfected type which was intended to be used for a raid against the docks of New York, but with the arrival of the Italian Armistice the project was abandoned).

A class 2nd series

Characteristics: displacement: 12.8/14 tonnes; length: 10.47 meters; beam: 1.90 meters; draught: 1.83 meters; propulsion: electric; maximum speed: 6/7 knots; operational range: 70/2 kilometers; armament: eight 100-kilogram explosive charges plus 20 "leeches"; crew: 3.

B class

Characteristics: displacement: 36/45 tonnes; length: 16 meters; beam: 3 meters; draught: 2.10 meters; propulsion: Diesel-electric; maximum speed: 7.5/7 knots; operational range: 1400/50 kilometers; armament: two 450-millimeter torpedoes; crew: 4. Observations: The submarines of the B class were sometimes used as true submarines. Both types (A and B) could be easily transported by railway.

Ambush weapons

Slow March Torpedo (TML)

533-millimeter torpedo adapted to small submersibles; piloted by two divers astride the contraption, it could reach the vicinity of an enemy ship by navigating while submerged. Then the operators, after having placed the warhead - detached from the contraption - next to the target, had the possibility to escape by using the propulsive section of the contraption.

Torpedo San Bartolomeo (SSB)

Contraption denominated after the torpedo factory San Bartolomeo from La Spezia, where it was built. It was a reinforced TML which never entered service due to the arrival of the Italian Armistice.


Metallic ensemble of biconvex shape containing about 2 kilograms of explosive. It was adhered to the bottom of the target ship, under which it was placed by means of an elastic ring against which it remained pushed by a rubber floater inflated by a compressed-air cylinder. A clockwork mechanism triggered the explosion.

Explosive chest

Metallic cylindric ensemble containing 4.5 kilograms of explosive, attachable to the anti-roll fins of the target ship by means of two presses. It had a fuze which triggered the explosion after a certain timespan or when the ship had traveled a certain distance. After the British made the hulls of their next to depart ships to be inspected by divers, the explosive chests were fitted with devices that triggered the explosion barely as soon as someone tried to manipulate them.

The explosive "barchino"

In January 1936, while the diplomatic relations between Italy and England were increasingly uptight because of the war started by the first one in Abisinia, in the Italian high military quarters it started to be taken into consideration a possible armed clash with the old Albion. Clearly, there was a necessity of acquiring new means that allowed to effectively attack the most important weapon of the enemy: the Royal Navy. So one day Duke Aimone di Savoia Aosta, prestigious officer of the Regia Marina, presented to the Committee of Naval Projects a plan to build small and very fast speedboats able to carry a strong explosive charge, which could be used in surface assaults. These "tourism speedboats" (MT or "Motoscafo da Turismo"), as they were called due to reasons of secrecy, should be transported to the attack area by seaplanes S 55 which would deposit them in the water. To ease the transport had been projected speedboats of only 45 centimeters in height; even lesser than a torpedo. Then the speedboats, once in the water, should approach the intended target by using silenced engines, to finally launch themselves at full speed towards it. Finally the pilots would throw themselves to the water along with the guidance davit which, floating, would allow them to be outside the water to avoid the deadly effect of the expansive wave.

This project was entrusted to engineer Guido Cattaneo, then a complementary captain of Naval Weapons, who would become the architect of the "barchini" on their entire variety: MT 1st and 2nd class, modified MT, reduced MT, torpedo MT, modified torpedo MT, SMA (anagram from the MAS speedboats, MTTM of enlarged size), slow MT and anti-submarine MT. But the victorious end of the campaign in Abisinia and the successive period of distension cooled the desire of building new weapons. The projects were abandoned, and the first units of specialists, which were becoming used to the few prototypes of assault speedboats built, were dissolved. So, when Italy entered the Second World War, the project had to be revised and modernized, and organized again the instruction of personnel to operate the MT. But, besides the replacement of the hulls made of wood coated with fabric by hulls all in wood, and the utilization of surface units instead of seaplanes in the approximation, the construction plans and the utilization methods of these devices would not be very different from those provided by their first designer. The MT, or "barchini" as their crews called them, were nothing else than excellent single-seat speedboats of flat keel. The hull, of 5.20 meters in length, was made entirely of wood and its draught was minimal, important factor to easily overcome possible network barriers. This maneuver was eased as well by the fact that the ensemble propeller-rudder, externally placed astern like in an outboard, was movable upwards. The engine, an excellent Alfa Romeo 2500, allowed a maximum speed of 33 knots, with an operational range of about 150 kilometers. In the prow it was placed the explosive charge, of 330 kilograms, fitted with two detonation mechanisms.

The "barchino", which had a total weight of 1100 kilograms, could be used in two ways: the first one, perhaps less effective, consisted of using her like a torpedo, causing the explosion when impacting against the hull of the target. But the impact occurred above the waterline so it was not necessarily fatal for the target ship. But in the second method, on impact, a crown of explosive cartridges broke in two parts the "barchino", causing the sinking of the prow. As soon as this one reached a provided depth, a hydrostatic fuze exploded the charge. The hole was so directly opened in the submerged part of the hull where the damage was almost always irreparable. The pilot of the "barchino", once assured that the speedboat was directly aimed towards the target, removed the safety pin of the charge and threw himself to the water, trying to quickly get onboard the floater because the distance of abandon of the speedboat was generally only few dozens of meters from the target. With these "barchini" the men from the 10th Flotilla MAS achieved, the morning of the 26th March 1941, the first of the series of victories of Italian speedboats during the war. In few minutes, six men onboard six "barchini" sank, in Suda Bay, a cruiser of 10000 tonnes, an oil tanker and another two ships with a total of another 32000 tonnes. The British who with reason had boasted so much about their audacious and "economical" venture in Tarento, where risking few men and aircraft they had caused so much damage, could do nothing else than to realize that they had had very diligent students. The "night of the Sworfish" had been avenged.

Assault means of the Regia Marina

Categories: Naval Warfare - Engineering - World War Two - 20th Century - [General]


Website: Military History

Article submitted: 2015-08-30

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